Having trouble getting online? Call your provider

Having trouble getting online July 9? You might be one of thousands across the U.S. who waited too long or simply didn’t believe the warnings, and your internet might have shut down just after midnight because of malware that took over computers around the world more than a year ago, reports the Associated Press. At 12:01 a.m. ET, the FBI turned off the internet servers that were functioning as a temporary safety net to keep infected computers online for the past eight months. The court order the agency had gotten to keep the servers running expired, and it was not renewed. Now, if your computer is infected, your only hope is your internet service provider’s help desk…

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New course is like traffic school for sexting

If teens are cited by the police for a digital offense, the course provides an “opportunity to take the infraction off their record,” much like driver re-education after a traffic violation.

Students who send explicit photos on their cell phones wouldn’t have to be branded as sex offenders, if a new curriculum developed by Yahoo! Inc. catches on.

Technology offenses such as cyber bulling and sexting can carry serious emotional and legal consequences. In many states, the laws haven’t kept up with technology, and students who send or receive explicit photos of themselves or others can be charged with trafficking in child pornography.

To solve this problem, Yahoo!’s Trust and Safety Team has developed a Digital Safety Diversion Program, a police-taught course on online safety that comes in both proactive and reactive versions.

The one-hour proactive version of the course, usually presented at PTA meetings or school assemblies, teaches the importance of building positive online reputations and stopping cyber bullying. The three-hour, discussion-based reactive version of the course covers the same topics in more depth and requires teens to reflect on their online habits.

If teens are cited by the police for a digital offense, the reactive course provides an “opportunity to take the infraction off their record,” much like driver re-education after a minor traffic violation, said Connie Chung, policy manager at Yahoo! Trust and Safety.

“We’re excited about that happening, because we see it as a win-win situation,” said Chung. Offenders are “appropriately punished while being educated instead of reprimanded.”

For more safety and security news, see:

How a lone grad student scooped the government—and what it means for your online privacy

Schools struggle to address video recording in classrooms

SAFE Center at eSN Online

Holly Lawrence, an officer of the Sunnyvale, Calif., Department of Public Safety, first conceived of the program when she began working in schools as a neighborhood resource officer. In her first week, she received a case about kids sending naked pictures to each other and discovered a lack of clear protocol for citing the young tech offenders.

“Nobody wanted to deal with it … [because] nobody wanted these kids to be sex offenders,” Lawrence said, referring to the possibility in some states for a minor to face criminal charges if caught electronically communicating indecent material—that is, sexting.

Not content to ignore the issue, she saw an opportunity to “educate and rehabilitate” kids on “good digital citizenship,” Lawrence said.

After an extensive search, she discovered that while a few other nonprofits had developed digital safety education programs, the existing programs “didn’t seem like a good fit to have law enforcement to present,” because they tended to be game-based.

With an idea to develop a digital safety course “of a more serious nature,” Lawrence said she approached Yahoo!’s Trust and Safety team, a nonprofit branch of the Yahoo! online conglomerate headquartered in Sunnyvale.


Same-sex classes popular as more public schools split up boys and girls

An estimated 500 public schools across the country now offer some all-boy and all-girl classrooms.

Robin Gilbert didn’t set out to confront gender stereotypes when she split up the boys and girls at her elementary school in rural southwestern Idaho.

But that’s exactly what happened, with her Middleton Heights Elementary now among dozens of public schools nationwide being targeted by the American Civil Liberties Union in a bitter struggle over whether single-sex education should be continued. Under pressure, same-sex classes have been dropped at schools from Missouri to Louisiana.

“It doesn’t frustrate me,” Gilbert said of the criticism, “but it makes the work harder.”

While Gilbert’s school is believed to be the only one in Idaho offering same-sex classes, the movement is widespread in states like South Carolina, which has more than 100 schools that offer some form of a single-gender program.

Single-sex education began proliferating after the U.S. Education Department relaxed restrictions in 2006. With research showing boys, particularly minority boys, are graduating at lower rates than girls and faring worse on tests, plenty of schools were paying attention.

In 2002, only about a dozen public schools were separating the sexes, according to the National Association for Single Sex Public Education, an advocacy group. Now, an estimated 500 public schools across the country offer some all-boy and all-girl classrooms.

Proponents argue the separation allows for a tailored instruction and cuts down on gender-driven distractions among boys and girls, such as flirting. But critics decry the movement as promoting harmful gender stereotypes and depriving kids of equal educational opportunities. The ACLU claims many schools offer the classes in a way that conflicts with the U.S. Constitution and Title IX, a federal law banning sex discrimination in education. Researchers also have weighed in.

Diane F. Halpern, a former president of the American Psychological Association, co-authored a review of studies last fall in the journal Science that found research doesn’t support the benefits of single-sex education. Additionally, there are lots of problems whenever you segregate people into groups, Halpern said.


Could NCLB waivers offer a roadmap to reauthorization?

Congress could come up with a great plan for reauthorizing NCLB by adopting the best ideas from the states’ waiver applications, Duncan said at a July 6 news conference.

Although more than half the states are now exempt from the toughest requirements of the federal “No Child Left Behind” education law, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said his goal remains to help Congress fix the law, not to sidestep the stalled overhaul effort.

Still, allowing waivers has brought a level of creativity to education reform that was unexpected when Duncan and President Barack Obama opened the waiver process nearly a year ago.

The Obama administration’s July 6 announcement that Washington and Wisconsin have been granted waivers from the education law brought to 26 the number of states now free from many of its requirements.

Congress could come up with a great plan for reauthorizing the federal law by adopting the best ideas from the states’ waiver applications, Duncan said at a July 6 news conference.

Lawmakers remain at a stalemate over the long overdue rewrite of the widely criticized law, which was a signature accomplishment of the George W. Bush administration. Obama sent Congress an overhaul proposal two years ago.

Making the law, formally known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, irrelevant is not the Obama administration’s goal, Duncan said.

For more news and opinion about education reform, see:

District ‘Race to the Top’ rules spur mixed reaction

Testing experts play critical role in students’, teachers’ futures

Why education is not like business

Beyond ‘Superman‘: Leading responsible school reform

“Our Plan A is to reauthorize. We stand ready for reauthorization if it’s on Monday or next week or six months from now,” he said.

The Education Department began granting waivers in February in exchange for promises from states to improve how they prepare and evaluate students and their teachers. The executive action by Obama is part of an ongoing effort to act on his own when Congress is rebuffing him.

“A strong, bipartisan reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act remains the best path forward in education reform, but as 26 states have now demonstrated, our kids can’t wait any longer for Congress to act,” Duncan said in a statement.

The 10-year-old law requires all students to achieve proficient math and reading scores by 2014, a goal that many educators say is impossible.

Members of both parties say No Child Left Behind is broken, but they have been unable to agree on how to fix it. While the law has been praised for focusing on the performance of minorities, low-income students, English language learners, and special-education students, it also has labeled thousands of schools as “failing” because of the stringent ways it measures success.

Critics also say the law has had the unintended effect of encouraging schools to focus too much on testing in reading and math, leading them to narrow their curricula.


$5,000 for herbal education in schools

The Herb Society of America’s mission is to promote the knowledge, use and delight of herbs through educational programs, research, and sharing the experience of its members with the community. The Grant for Educators challenges individuals, groups or small businesses to develop and deliver learning experiences to the public. Each year, the Grant Committee anticipates funding one or two grants for a total of $5,000. The grant rewards innovative projects that enhance herbal education in school systems, in communities, or in any public forum (electronic or person-to-person). It requires learning goals and a mechanism to measure the educational outcomes.


Free web 2.0 Tools Course

Powerful Learning Practice (PLP) is offering a free 2-week course to teachers and others who wish to learn about web 2.0 tools. The course includes activities designed to prepare participants to be connected educators. To participate, teachers sign up to receive an email every day for 2 weeks, and each email will present an activity that focuses on a web 2.0 tool.


Win an iPad

SOPHIA is giving away oneiPad® each week for eight weeks this summer (2012). SOPHIA and Bill Nye the Science Guy will help you stay sharp and fight summer brain drain. Together we’ve developed the SOPHIA Summer Challenge. SOPHIA is a first-of-its-kind social education platform that offers more than 25,000 FREE tutorials created by multiple teachers taught in a variety of ways.


Study: Gene may play role in education achievement

Whether a student graduates high school or achieves a college degree could depend partly on genetic factors beyond their control, according to a national study of thousands of Americans, the Huffington Post reports. In the report, which appears in the July issue of Developmental Psychology, researchers identify three genes — DAT1, DRD2, and DRD4 — that are associated with attention regulation, motivation, violence, cognitive skills and intelligence.

“Being able to show that specific genes are related in any way to academic achievement is a big step forward in understanding the developmental pathways among young people,” the study’s lead author Kevin Beaver said, according to Science Daily. Beaver is a professor at the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida State University.

Although previous research has investigated links between genes and intelligence, no candidate genes for such a link had yet been identified, according to the study

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GOP teachers balk at Obama-centric NEA convention

It had all the trappings of a re-election rally: thousands packing a convention center, Barack Obama T-shirts, videos celebrating the health care law, and a wall-size banner with encouraging messages to the incumbent president, the Associated Press reports.

“You are our knight in shining armor — Sarah C., Norman, Okla.,” read one inscription.

But this Obama love fest in Washington was not a campaign event. The nearly 9,000 gathered were teachers in town for the National Education Association’s weeklong annual convention.

For the Republican teachers in attendance, the digs at their political views were impossible to overlook.

“What I don’t like is the harassment going on for people to be an ‘EFO’ — an educator for Obama,” said Maureen van Wagner, a special education teacher from Anchorage, Alaska…

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Why the Gates Foundation is so puzzling

When one foundation has amassed over $30 billion, it has the financial power to shape the policies of government to its liking, says Diane Ravitch, a research professor at New York University, for the Washington Post. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has more than $30 billion, and when Warren Buffet’s gift of another $30 billion is added to the Gates
fund, the Gates Foundation will have the power to direct global policy on almost any issue of its choosing. Educator Anthony Cody published a guest column on his Education Week Teacher blog that describes how the Gates Foundation intervenes in agricultural and environmental issues around the world, often in ways that support corporate profits rather than the public interest (Education Week is in part funded by the Gates Foundation). I have never believed that the Gates Foundation or the Gates family puts profits above the public interest. I work on the assumption that anyone who has more riches than they can ever spend in their lifetime or in 100 lifetimes is not motivated by greed. It makes no sense. I believe that Bill and Melinda Gates want to establish a legacy as people who left the world a better place. But I think their efforts to “reform” education are woefully mistaken…

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